New Zealand's domination of the women's pairs title at the bowls world championship ended in Adelaide today when Jo Edwards and Val Smith relinquished their crown to nemesis Australia - a double blow after the men's triple also succumbed to the precision of their trans-Tasman rivals in the semifinals.
Kelsey Cottrell and Rebecca Quail beat the defending champions 17-11 on the tournament's opening day and prevailed again when it mattered most to celebrate a deserved 16-12 victory after surviving a desperate comeback.
The Australians made a strong start at the Lockleys club, springing out at an early 4-0 lead and although Smith and Edwards regained parity at 5-5, they crucially conceded seven unanswered points - an ultimately insurmountable gap at the close of the 10th end.
New Zealand rallied by claiming back-to-back ends for the first time in the match to reduce the deficit to 14-12 after 16 but Rebecca Quail effectively ended the Kiwi resurgence when her final bowl claimed a precious shot that left Smith and Edwards requiring at least a three on the last to prolong a contest they never led.
New Zealand duly held three after skip Edwards delivered her first bowl but classy counterpart Quail had her covered and turned that deficit into a one shot gain before watching the two-time champion's end-killing drive miss the target.
"It's all about putting pressure on the opposition and they played really good bowls. I hoped to be a wee bit more pressure on there but I couldn't," Edwards lamented.
"They played consistently throughout the game," added Smith, "they played strong and made it difficult for us."
Edwards was bidding for her third successive pairs gold - she combined with Sharon Sims to win the 2004 title in England before triumphing in Christchurch alongside Smith four years ago- and now ends the tournament without a medal following the fours' demise in pool play.
While Edwards and Smith were battling in vain, on an adjacent rink the previously unbeaten men's triple had already settled for bronze after Australia inflicted an untimely defeat.
Tony Grantham, Matt Gallop and Ali Forsyth had nine wins and two draws on their record heading into the semifinals but their hopes of atoning for a premature exit in the fours were thwarted by the Australians as they shaded a tense low-scoring encounter 12-10.
By successfully avenging their three-point loss to the Kiwis in pool play Wayne Ruediger, Brett Wilkie and Mark Casey go for gold against Scotland.
There is a least a silver lining to an otherwise disappointing day as the women's triple of Lisa White, Jan Khan and Mandy Boyd won their doubleheader to qualify for a gold medal decider with the Australians.
They cleared the first obstacle by beating Hong Kong 16-6 in their post-section play-off and then backed up that result by eliminating the highly-rated Scottish trio 15-10 to set up another trans-Tasman showdown on Saturday against Natasha van Eldik, Lynsey Armitage and Karen Murphy.
Smith, meanwhile, does not have long to mull over her setback as the defence of her singles title resumes tomorrow with a semifinal against Kelly McKerihen, the Canadian who edged her 21-18 in pool play.
- © Fairfax NZ News